Archive for June, 2011

Seasonal Farm Pics

June 19, 2011

The hummers are back and hungry

View from the house: buckwheat starting on the right, veggies on the left

Strawberries, winning their battle with the slugs

Brassica beds protected from flea beetles

Lots going on in the coldframe

Cucurbit area with some broccoli between

The new wash area

New toolbar with potato hiller a la Will

Garlic leaning after a big storm

View of the potato area (field 4)

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Still Waiting for Summer

June 19, 2011

Well here we are, most of the way through June and it still doesn’t feel anything like summer. Yes, the bugs are definitely here but the heat and sunshine are staying away. Things are growing slowly, the upside of which is I’ve been able to get seedlings transplanted and seeds planted without the distraction of having to weed! You know it’s a slow spring when even the weeds aren’t growing.

I’d say we are well on top of our planting schedule though I can see I will soon run out of composted beds for the later crops: broccoli, lettuce, spinach and more parsley. The potato beetles have just arrived and we are picking the adults off potato plants every day, as well as picking slugs off the strawberry plants (thank goodness for this pest management variety in our lives!). The cover crops we’ve planted are up and doing well: buckwheat and white clover. I planted white clover around the raspberries to try and reduce soil erosion (the land slopes a bit) and cover the soil to keep the bad weeds away. The buckwheat is going in where we aren’t growing vegetables this year. I’ll probably put some oats in when we run out of buckwheat seed, and I still have to plant the chickling vetch.

We’ve started selling some vegetables to our friend, Reiner, at the Moncton market. He sells meat and eggs so is set up year round at the market. He is kind enough to take our veggies (radishes and spinach) and sell them until his come on. A benefit to us both because it means our stuff gets sold and he attracts customers to his stall for early veggie sales. By the time his veggies arrive, he’ll have confirmed veggie customers. The first radish and spinach came out of the coldframe and last week’s came out of the field, so we are slowly starting to produce things. The tomatoes are planted in the coldframe now and are all doing well. We’ve been removing the other crop that had been planted down the bed centres though the turnips are still in place. I want to keep the turnips for the first CSA boxes so our customers get more than just leafy greens, however they are getting quite big and bushy and I have to constantly prune leaves away from the tomato plants.

We’ve planted all the cucurbits outside: cucumbers, melons, zucchini and winter squash, as well as outdoor tomatoes, ground cherries and peppers. We’re covering the cucurbits with floating row cover, to keep them safe from cucumber beetles, and they are planted on black plastic landscape cloth for heat and weed control. We are also covering all the brassicas: cauliflower, kale, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts with row cover to protect from flea beetle. These are our winter brassicas and we want to give them all the care they need so that we have a large supply for the last months of our CSA. Since we are starting the boxes later than hoped, we will be going later into the year to make up 20 weeks. We want to have more than just root vegetables for our loyal customers in November!

The garlic is looking great and we should be getting scapes in 2-3 weeks. I’m judging this by comparing our garlic to another grower who is a couple of weeks ahead of us and whose scapes are just coming on now. Will is still primarily engaged in construction projects on the farm, though I’ll be needing his handy hands in the field once we start harvesting and delivering. He has built an awning and deck for our wash station, as well as put together some tables and sinks. His big project now is getting the irrigation system set up. We had a visit from Ron Pond, the NB irrigation/drainage specialist, and he kindly drew up a plan for us to irrigate from our tiny little well. Yes, we’ve learned that our well is very old, very small and will limit our irrigating ability. The good news is that we have lots of water so if we did decide to scale up, we could dig a new well and irrigate quite a lot of land without draining any aquifers. For now, though, we should be able to run 1600 feet of drip tape at one time, a perfectly manageable amount given that NB doesn’t really get dry in the summer and if we manage our fields well and don’t allow anything to dry right out, we should be fine.

I must stop my farm stories for a moment and talk a bit about some of the people working for the government in agriculture here in NB. In 12 years of farming in BC I met very few provincial agronomists and never once had one set foot on our farm. Since we’ve been in NB we’ve had the local agronomist and provincial organic agr. specialist pay many visits to our farm as well as a visit from the NB soils, berry and irrigation/drainiage specialists. We know these people, see them at events and meetings and regularly contact them for advice and information. They organize field days at the research station in nearby St. Joseph and regularly send us information on courses, studies and grants that we can apply for. In some ways, NB is not very supportive of agriculture (eg. Mining trumps farming every time) but in their provision of highly trained, highly motivated, all round great agronomists, they almost make up for it!

Okay, now back to the farm. The goats are doing well and milking really well. Gaia is still feeding her kids so I’m just milking Ruby and Gem who are giving me almost 2 gallons a day. This is pretty good considering that Ruby is nearing the end of her milking career and Gem is just beginning hers. The herd is down to 8 females and 6 little boys and I will be overwintering only the 8 females. Ruby is now queen of the herd and taking her role very seriously. It takes a little while for the dynamics to work themselves out once a few of the big girls go, but eventually they do and peace is restored. It’s really nice not having Nessie around – I loved her once but in her last year on the farm she’d discovered how to open the gate and it was a real pain having to double latch the gate or else deal with wandering goats. Yes, it was time for her to go! The broken legged kid (named Calliope or Callie for short) is doing well. There is a big bump on her leg and it doesn’t look totally straight, but she seems to be using it okay. We’ll see how it works out as she grows. The only other goat adventure was a big cut above Gem’s eye that needed stitching. It was my second goat stitching job and it definitely gets easier, though trying to get a goat to hold its head still is indeed a challenge! The stitches came out yesterday and it looks fine so all that struggle was worth it.

We were very privileged to have two strong, keen, smart young volunteers on our farm last week. Adrien and Sophie are members of our CSA and keen to one day grow their own food on their land, so they took a week of their annual vacation and spent it here, doing farm work. They worked hard and I think they learned lots. We enjoyed their company, as well as the extra help, and also got to experience a little bit of what it will be like on the farm once we have apprentices. It definitely makes you become more organized, when you have other people relying on you for direction. It also requires you to learn how to explain things in a way that they make sense so that people can follow your instructions. Adrien and Sophie picked things up really quickly, which was nice, and truly enjoyed some of farming’s less enjoyable jobs like picking slugs in the rain! I miss them already. They are both interested in cheese-making and I’ve suggested they come by and make some cheese for us any time they’re available. They both work full-time so it will be a bit of a squeeze time-wise, but we’ll see if we can work it out. Finally, after six days of volunteer farm work, out in the fields with only mosquitoes and blackflies for company, Adrien and Sophie thanked us with a gift of a gorgeous new ice cream maker. I must say, those two have set the bar pretty high for farm volunteers!

I’d started to talk about Will’s projects and then got distracted by irrigation details. He’s been putting together material lists for our irrigation system, much of which needs to be ordered from Ontario. The cost of shipping is high so Will visited all our local hardware stores to source which items could be bought locally and has managed to save us about $500 so far. He has started the plumbing at the well to send water to the coldframe (where the irrigation starts) and to the wash station at the steel building. Once we get some drier weather next week, he’ll rent a trenching machine and make a trench across the driveway, then along the fields for irrigation main lines. We only plan to irrigate fields 1-3 for now though the line we’re putting in is large enough for expansion if we decide to irrigate field 4, tool. We’re also thinking of putting in drainage pipe (big O) in the same trench as the irrigation pipe so that water from the wash station doesn’t end up flooding the fields. None of our water pipes will be buried deep enough to prevent freezing so they will all need bleeders to allow air in so we can flush them at the end of the season. Fortunately our fields are almost all downhill from the well so this shouldn’t be too hard.

Will has also been putting his newfound welding skills to work lately. He managed to get a good deal on a 3-point-hitch toolbar through Kijiji and bought some potato hilling mouldboards from our friend, Tom, in Penobsquis. Tom also loaned Will one of his potato hilling attachements as a model so Will was able to build us our own tractor-powered potato hiller. Considering that we have about 2500 feet of potatoes to hill, this will come in really handy! The toolbar is great because it will be used for many things besides potato hilling: cultivating, potato planting and digging and subsoiling, with each operation’s different attachments. There’s nothing like a good piece of multi-use farm equipment!

I should wrap this up now. We are going to a potluck this evening and I have to make a rhubarb cake. We have lots of rhubarb from some plants given to us by a friend last year and I’ve been making lots of great rhubarb desserts. Now that we have an ice cream maker I can make rhubarb sorbet, too!